“EMPIRE” Star TERRELL CARTER Sings For His Supper
By Andrew Cristi
It’s safe to say that when anyone can tribute a song to Whitney Houston and deliver it flawlessly, they are easily looking forward to a successful career filled with longevity- but, who would think that the person hitting those notes could be a guy? And yet, the latest addition to FOX’s colossal hit “Empire,” Terrell Carter, is just that man- a man that believes “Every singer is an actor and must deliver a song.” And trust us- Carter delivers.
A singer first and foremost, the smooth-voiced songster references greats like Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Donny Hathaway, and of course, Whitney Houston, as major inspirations- and still, the soulful singer possesses a serene sound all his own as he sings with a dedication and passion that shows he is throwing his whole heart into every beat, every lyric- and then-some. And, it is precisely that passion that he brings to his new role on “Empire” that has made him a quick fan-favorite with the public.
As conflicted anti-hero Warren Hall, Carter has concocted a character that fans have taken to cheering on, celebrating him for his inner-turmoil as much as they do the gifted actor that plays him- and a major part of that is the amount of due-diligence that the actor has put into his juicy part. Working alongside game-changing legend Phylicia Rashad, the steadfast actor was more than happy to hone his craft as they created back-story for themselves even outside of what was written on the page, and the quickly rising star couldn’t have been more glad to do so.
Just hearing him talk about performing, it immediately becomes clear that none of this is “work” for the artist- singing and acting are simply oxygen to Carter, who would otherwise be lost without them. A certain fire ignites in the ardent actor from even just talking about his role and the complexities behind his character, and watching as he reveres the greats of the industry- both those he has worked with and those he wishes to work with- is like watching a little boy open up his gifts on Christmas morning as he grows filled with joy and excitement. In short, the multi-talented star has a deep love for what he does- and it is constantly radiating off of him and wonderfully infecting everyone around him.
As “Empire” continues on the rollercoaster of its fourth season, and more layers of Warren keep getting revealed, Wingman decided to catch up with the actor and find out more about his process, what we can maybe expect next with his character and Jamal, and what else he might want to do in the future. Read below to see what Carter had to say!
WINGMAN: So, talk about coming into “Empire”– how was it being a newbie in such an established cast and popular show?
TERRELL CARTER: Well, as you know, it’s been on for a while now- it’s in its fourth season, and it’s a lot of pressure to come on a show that is a hit show- and not just a hit, but this show has famous actors from top to bottom. I mean, this gives any actor a wonderful platform to make their mark and crack into the business- I’ve been in the business a long time, but this is just surreal, and yet at the same time this is just the most wonderfully supportive cast that really has wrapped their arms around me since the day I walked through the door. Everyone is so helpful from the actors, to the directors, to the crew- it’s been an amazing experience. And even though my character seems so torn, the audience has embraced him and love him- they are really rooting for him even though they sometimes maybe shouldn’t!
WINGMAN: As you mentioned, you get to join some really talented people here; Terrence Howard, Taraji P. Henson, Trai Byers, Jussie Smollet, Taye Diggs, and of course, Phylicia Rashad. Can you talk about your cast?
TERRELL CARTER: Like I said- it’s been amazing. I’ve known Jussie for years, we’ve actually known one another before I came on the show! And it’s such an incredible experience to get to work with people like Taye Diggs and Phylicia Rashad- she was just so helpful. She’s a queen of Hollywood, and when it comes to someone who has been around and has been influential, she tops the list. She is so poised and so professional, and at the same time, she never had a hard time stopping and giving me all the back story- even the back story we hadn’t been told, just creating some in order to create our family and figure out what direction we were going to go in so that way when they said “action!” it would seem like we really were family members- and that was invaluable. But, they’ve all been so helpful. It’s an honor to work with these people that the world also sees as A-list stars.
WINGMAN: What can fans expect from the show this season, as well as from your character?
TERRELL CARTER: I think fans can expect this season to be easier to follow. The difference this season is that it’s not really about politics or anything like that, here we just have one family against another family. It’s just really fascinating watching all the tricks that Diana Dubois pulls out of her sleeve against Cookie, and to try and take down the Lyon family. But, while the narrative may be simpler, the show still takes you on the same fun rollercoaster- it’s still dramatic, and so crazy, but it’s very easy to follow. As for my character, fans get to watch how Warren is really torn between his family and Jamal. He has his own vendettas toward the Lyons, but at the same time Jamal is a sweet guy- and out of all of the Lyons, he is the one that always seems to mean well, and that has to say something about Jamal and Warren and their relationship because it could throw a monkey wrench into Jamal being the pawn for the whole plan if real feelings start to develop here and Warren can’t carry out what Diana wants him to do. So, fans will definitely get to definitely see Warren go back and forth playing for both teams here and turning on both families.
WINGMAN: And this, of course, is really you singing! You are an amazing singer! Which is your first love, music or acting?
TERRELL CARTER: Oh, singing is my first love- it always has been. Acting came after that when I was doing plays because they were musicals, so, I started getting more into acting, and the truth is; if you’re a singer? You’re an actor. You have to sell the song. You have to deliver it. But, singing was really always my first love.
WINGMAN: How would you describe your particular sound, and who are your musical inspirations?
TERRELL CARTER: My particular sound is definitely a blend of soul, R&B, gospel, and jazz. My inspirations range from Stevie Wonder, to Aretha Franklin, to Donny Hathaway, and of course Whitney Houston- the most major singers that ever lived, and all very soulful singers.
WINGMAN: As a series regular on one of television’s hottest shows, you are a hot commodity in Hollywood! Who else would you love to work with, and what other roles would you love to play?
TERRELL CARTER: Oh my goodness! Of course, I would love to work with Morgan Freeman! I would love to work with Will Smith! I would love to work with James Franco- I’m a major fan of his. He’s so talented. And, I would love to work with other musical artists- I would love to work with Stevie Wonder! But, you know what? I want to start doing some of these Marvel or DC films. I want to play a superhero. I can definitely be interested in “The Justice League” or…“The Justice League 2”– hint, hint. I really want to go after action or superhero movies.
With studios so desperate to breathe new life into the superhero genre- trying everything from making them more comedic like in “Deadpool,” to focusing on anti-heroes and anti-villains like in “Suicide Squad,” Carter might be on to something huge without even knowing it. “La La Land” was one of the biggest smash successes of last year, and Lord knows superhero films need more diversity- why not grant the “Empire” star his wish and create a musical superhero movie? Before fan-boys dare criticize the idea, keep in mind that “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” experienced one of their most successful episodes with their musical episode; “Once More, With Feeling!”– and awesome action star Alan Ritchson has also expressed major interest in appearing in a musical. So, come on Joss Whedon- let’s see some singing superheroes, stat- and remember to cast Terrell Carter!
“Empire” continues on FOX Wednesday nights at 8/7c.